Fiction’s and Real Life’s “Bad Guys” and Stereotyping

I’ve been thinking a lot about villains lately. Actually, this particular File 770 “Pixel Scroll” first brought the topic up in my mind. If you scroll down to item #4 “AUTUMN LEAVES” and to “Watchmen” just below that, you can read:

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued. [emph. mine]

I know I wrote a blog post sometime ago about adult-oriented comic books and how they are now themed to emphasize social justice, but I can’t find it again. I do remember that, thanks to Donald Trump, most, if not all of the villains are straight white men, and specifically alt-right white supremacists.

No, I’m not defending racism, white supremacy, bigotry, or anything like that. My wife and children are Jewish, so I specifically take a dim view of antisemitism as well as other forms of prejudice and bigotry. Yes, some of my political views are unpopular to certain demographics but I don’t advocate for hate.

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The Sins of John W. Campbell Revisited

Author Jeannette Ng – image found at the Angry Robot website

Just for giggles, I revisited the comments at File 770‘s article Storm Over Campbell Award. As you may recall from my own wee missive Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again, Ms Ng, a fantasy writer based in the UK, was recently given the John W. Campbell award for best new writer, which she accepted, and then went on to point out Campbell’s terrific flaws, which included being a fascist.

There are now over 200 comments on Mike Glyer’s commentary on Ng and Campbell, and of course, they all damn Campbell, some even comparing him (more or less) to Mussolini. Further, one person said that anyone with even the tiniest hint of actually liking anything Campbell ever did is considered a fascist sympathizer. Really. I had heard of Campbell, but before this, I never had any idea about his political beliefs.

However, even according to Wikipedia, while he may or may not have been a fascist, he certainly was a racist.

His opinions go far beyond the occasional “joke in bad taste,” and many well known authors, including Michael Moorcock and Isaac Asimov, lambasted Campbell for his even then unpopular and heinous ideas.

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Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again

Author Jeannette Ng – image found at the Angry Robot website

Here we go again. British fantasy writer Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon recently, the 47th winner. Of course, she accepted the award, and then began to rip the late John W. Campbell apart, calling him, among other things, a fascist. An edited copy of her acceptance speech is hosted at Medium.com with the profanity removed.

Last December, I wrote an article called Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?. Silverberg had created his own response to allegations of his own racism on File 770, a popular SciFi fanzine after, apparently, he privately said that author N.K. Jemisin‘s 2018 Hugo acceptance speech (the third consecutive Hugo she won for best novel) was “weaponized.”

I looked up Campbell, not knowing much (if anything) about him personally, and found he held a bunch of “difficult” attitudes, but then again, he was a product of his times, having been born in 1910 (he died in 1971 at the age of 61). There’s no denying that Campbell shaped much of 20th century science fiction, having discovered talents such as Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, so it’s certainly understandable that, based on his career, he is worthy of having a science fiction award named after him. Does he have to be a perfect person by 21st century progressive, politically correct standards to still be considered significant?

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How Heroes of Color Could Win in “Avengers: Endgame”

endgame

Promotional poster for “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

I know that Captain Marvel (2019) is supposed to be THE next Marvel film to watch for a lot of reasons, but there’s no escaping the sequel to last year’s Avengers: Infinity War which I had meant to review, but apparently neglected. Avengers: Endgame is due to be out in late April and is expected to answer a lot of questions, not the least of which is who stays dead and who comes back to life.

However, there’s been a lot of concern about how specifically, King T’Challa, the Black Panther, and a large number of notable heroes of color and female heroes were exterminated, suspiciously leaving only the core, white male Avengers alive.

African-American screenwriter and author Steven Barnes has discussed at length, the history of black film characters dying for the sake of making white characters more heroic, and the impact of this, not only on his own childhood, but on his teenage son Jason.

Author G. Scott Huggins also weighed in on this last January, specifically about how, while we expect T’Challa, the Wakandans, and other African-American heroes to be revived, the fact that they died in the first place diminishes them as heroes. He said:

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Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?

robert silverberg

SF author/editor Robert Silverberg – 2005

If I hadn’t read a blog post at Superversive SF called The Cardinal Mistake With SJWs and Robert Silverberg, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

First off, I’ll state for the record, that because I’m even mentioning Jon Del Arroz‘s (yes, he deliberately makes himself a lightning rod for controversy) name and daring to write something with a social and political perspective not shared (necessarily) by Democrats, leftists, and progressives (those words are not synonyms), that at least one person will be vocally upset with me here on my blog.

I suspect that a lot of other people who regularly read my fiction will simply not respond because A: they like me and what I write, and B: they think that I’m a nice enough guy not to be flamed for expressing unpopular opinions.

Thank you.

Anyway, I did read Del Arroz’s article which starts out:

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Pre-Review Jitters

overt and covert racism

Found on social media

I’ll have to keep this relatively short since I promised my wife I’d help her in the yard this afternoon.

I tend to “catch up” on movies after they’ve left the theater by renting the DVDs from the public library. Even if the film is a stinker, I’m not out a dime, though I’ll never get those two hours back.

Last night, I watched the 2017 film Thor: Ragnarok and completely enjoyed it. I’ll write a more comprehensive review later. Relative to this blog, I’ve also watched and should review Wonder Woman (another winner), Spider-Man: Homecoming (ditto), and Lucy (uh…).

Tonight’s feature is Avengers: Infinity War.

I’ve put a library hold on the Black Panther, and thereby hangs a tale, or at least trepidation.

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Baobab

baobab

A baobab tree in northern Ghana.

Brian Fletcher was startled when the lithe, green-eyed Ghanan woman stepped out from behind the baobab tree.

“I wouldn’t pick the flowers. The gods cursed the baobab. Picking even a single white flower is bad luck.”

The hunter defiantly plucked one, then two more flowers, and then held out his arm. She took a step backward, and he laughed. “Stupid superstition.”

“You will meet your fate, Mr. Fletcher as you have sent many elephants to theirs…poacher.”

“How did you…?”

The dark woman dashed back around the tree’s large, twisted trunk.

“Wait a minute.” The muscular, middle-aged man threw the flowers to the ground and ran after, but it wasn’t a woman he found on the other side.

He only had time to notice that the lioness possessed the same green eyes before she tore him apart. The gods had again wrought terrible justice against one who would desecrate their lands.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bamboi, Northern Region, Ghana. I couldn’t find anything on Bamboi in a casual Google search, since it kept trying to redirect me to “bamboo.” I did look up Northern Region (Ghana), and there I found the Baobab Tree, and more importantly, the legends and myths about it. There are numerous myths, so I chose one, leveraging information about poaching in Ghana.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Why Captain America Reminds Me Never to Give Up

cat

Promotional image for the 2014 film “Captain America: Winter Solder.”

After all the you’re a racist if you don’t believe Colin Kaepernick gave up everything to be Nike’s “Just Do It” 30th anniversary spokesperson garbage a few days ago, I decided I needed to unwind and experience something to restore my spirit. So I again chose to dust off the DVD and watch the 2014 film Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Why, you ask?

I can’t find the quote online, but I recall that actor Chris Evans, who plays “Cap” in the Marvel movies, said something like “Captain America does good for the sake of doing good. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted to be as a man.”

That’s probably not exact, but I’m betting it’s pretty close.

In the film, he says stuff like:

I know I’m asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.

And…

Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

He didn’t act ashamed of America and, after all, the guy’s uniform is basically the American flag (I’d like to see someone try to stomp on or burn it while Rogers was wearing it). Steve Rogers is a living reminder why it’s okay to still believe that our nation is made up of people who do good and want to be even better.

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Are You Sure You Want to be a Cop?

wright vehicle

Vehicle of a woman charged with assault with a dangerous weapon – attributed to Boston station WBZ-TV.

“But why are you arresting me? He’s the racist!” Melissa Becker was struggling and putting up quite a commotion as Police Officer Irene Atkins pressed her against the side of her car and handcuffed her.

“Need any assistance?” Atkins’s partner of four years Mike Shelton paused while taking a statement from the victim, 37-year-old Preston West.

“No, I’ve got her.” If it had been any other male officer, Irene would have taken the question as condescending, but Mike was one of the few in the Department who cared more about doing the job right than whether a cop was a man or a woman.

“Watch your head.” She eased the 25-year-old Becker into the backseat of the patrol car, holding the top of her head so she wouldn’t bump it as she entered. She’d already read the younger woman her rights and wanted to get this circus over with as fast as possible.

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Whose Voice Is It, Anyway?

men describe women chart

Found at Electric Lit online magazine (click on the image to see a larger version)

The chart posted above was acquired from the article If You’re Not Sure How a Male Author Would Describe You, Use Our Handy Chart over at the Electric Lit online magazine. As I understand it, the chart was created as a gag, and I found it pretty funny. In fact, I toyed with the idea of writing a story using the chart just as a joke.

Then it took on a life of its own on twitter, as reported at the same magazine, in an essay titled ‘Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would’ Is the Most Savage Twitter Thread in Ages.

Apparently a male author claimed he could write authentic female characters, and was immediately challenged by Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz). A combination of hilarity, hostility, and moral angst ensued. I should say that after writing most of this missive, I noticed these articles were written last April, but they’ve showed up in my gmail inbox from Medium in the last couple of days. Wonder what the message is?

I decided to write about this because I’ve gotten a hold of a review copy of the To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity anthology edited by Sirius Métier and published by Superversive Press. It was published digitally about two weeks ago (as I write this) and seems to be doing pretty well, both relative to its Amazon reviews (five so far, and all five star ratings) and in terms of sales.

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